A ten-man Wrexham AFC side produced a spirited showing to claim a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Sky Bet League Two strugglers Colchester United.
Birthday boy Elliot Lee, who turned 29 today, opened the scoring after just four minutes against his former side, with the Red Dragons continuing their good home form.
George Evans was sent off for a poor challenge on Arthur Read in the 26th minute, making Wrexham’s challenge an uphill battle at the STōK Cae Ras.
Despite the setback, an own-goal from Zach Mitchell doubled Wrexham’s lead in the 69th minute, and the hosts held on for all three points despite a late 89th minute strike from Jayden Fevrier.
Phil Parkinson’s side returned to Sky Bet League Two action for the first time in December, after an extended break due to last week’s postponement against Forest Green Rovers.
It meant that a much-changed side lined-up at the STōK Cae Ras compared to the Red Dragons’ last outing against Burton Albion in the Bristol Street Motors Trophy Round of 32.
Parkinson was boosted by the return of defender Eoghan O’Connell, who recovered from injury in time to return to the back three on a sunny afternoon in North Wales.
Colchester arrived following a run of poor form which sees them sat in a perilous position – just one place above the relegation places in 22nd.
Matt Jay got the game underway for the visitors, but Wrexham quickly imposed themselves on the game; an early 50/50 challenge from James McClean’s established the hosts’ desire and application.
Paul Mullin was clean through on goal having reacted to a loose ball on the edge of Colchester’s box, just two minutes into the match.
The 29-year-old initially took the initiative and was quickest to react, but Owen Goodman was alert to the danger and managed to recover to deny Wrexham’s number ten from getting his strike away.
With high-flying Wrexham trying to maintain their position in the Sky Bet League Two, they wasted no time in breaking the deadlock after just four minutes in North Wales.
Midfielder Elliot Lee was celebrating his 29th birthday, and on a day when his former side came to town, the industrious marksman was always going ensure it was a day to remember.
Lee arrived into early into the box, causing no end of problems for the visitors as he often does at the STōK Cae Ras.
It was only fitting that Wrexham’s top-goal scorer continued in his rich vein of form and scored his 12th league goal of the season. He fired low and powerfully on his right-foot past Goodman, after seeing his initial effort blocked by Colchester’s backline.
Both sides continued to up the tempo in the opening period of the match, with a number of tough challenges being put in with the match shaping up to be a physical battle between the teams.
Mark Howard made a solid stop after just 14 minutes to maintain Wrexham’s advantage, denying Jayden Fevrier’s effort as the wide-man cut in from the right-wing.
Wrexham’s mission to secure all three points became undoubtably tougher, as midfield maestro George Evans was handed a straight red card in the 26th minute for his challenge on Arthur Read.
His studs rose while making the tackle, leaving Ollie Yates with a decision to make, and Wrexham a man lighter on the pitch.
McClean made a flying effort to double Wrexham’s advantage after 44 minutes, in an almost Cantona-esque volley which drifted wide of Colchester’s net.
Mullin got the second half underway for Wrexham and with under a minute played into the half, he came close to doubling the Red Dragons’ advantage.
With ten-man Wrexham struggling to hold the ball up, the forward did well to turn and drove past past a duo of Colchester defenders with a deft touch, only for his effort to be saved in the last moments by Goodman.
Despite having one less man in the pitch, Wrexham held strong and eventually doubled their advantage at the STōK Cae Ras in the 69th minute.
Some smart link-up play meant that the ball fell through to Lee, who fed through McClean on the left-flank.
The former Republic of Ireland international whipped a dangerous ball into the U’s box, forcing Zach Mitchell to react. The visiting defender couldn’t clear, and he eventually headed the ball into his own net to send the STōK Cold Brew Coffee Stand into raptures.
With time quickly running out, Matty Etherington’s side were handed a lifeline in the nick of time as his team halved the deficit through Fevrier after 89 minutes.
Mark Howard made a fine initial save to deny the U’s, but the rebound fell straight at the feet of the wide-man, who made sure to capitalise on his opportunity.
Colchester then sent a late onslaught towards Howard’s goal, with seven minutes added on in North Wales.
As pressure mounted, Parkinson’s side showed spirit and heart in abundance, holding on and defending magnificently to ensure they claimed all three points over the Manager’s former club.
Wrexham AFC: Howard (GK), O'Connell (Boyle 80’), Tozer (C), O'Connor, Mendy, Cannon, Evans, Lee (Davies 87’), McClean, Dalby (Jones 46’), Mullin (Palmer 87’).
Subs not used: McNicholas (GK), Forde, Bickerstaff
Colchester United: Goodman (GK), Greenidge (Iandolo 61), Mitchell, Kelleher, Egbo, Fevrier, McGeehan, Read, Jay (Akinde 61’), Taylor, Chilvers (Ihionvien 86’).
Subs not used: Hornby (GK), Hopper, Nelson, Cooper.
Match Attendance: 9,746 (665 Away).